A Republic... if we can keep it.
The latest revelation that the Obama administration has been collecting unprecedented amounts of data on innocent Americans is really rather unsurprising, and not just because I'm one of those wacko conservatives who doesn't trust the government. The interesting thing is the mixed reactions over the revelation, as some are outraged, and others defend the program, saying that it is an important factor in our fight against terrorism.
Back when the Patriot Act was first introduced, it was not without controversy ' and, ironically enough, at that time the roles were largely reversed: Republicans ' even many conservative Republicans ' were okay with many of the more contentious provisions of the Patriot Act, primarily because George W. Bush was president at the time. Today, conservatives are apoplectic at the prospect of the Obama administration having control of this type of program, and their concerns are undoubtedly justifiable; but while it would have been nice if more of us had been on board to fight these overreaching programs back at their inceptions, frankly, I don't think that matters a whole lot anymore.
But the thing that every American should be realizing now is that, unlike the granting of 501c4 status by the Internal Revenue Service, at its root, this should not be a partisan issue. Conservatives were wrong to put a false sense of security ahead of their rights during the Bush administration, all in the name of the War on Terror. Now we are seeing the consequences of those decisions.
And taken in light of the Obama administration's own recent poor decision-making: discriminating against conservatives by the IRS and the EPA, the targeting of the media by the DOJ, the never-ending string of scandals and cover-ups, it seems that America is finding out sooner than we thought we would the true consequences of the tools of the Patriot Act falling into the wrong hands. Personally, I imagine a similar argument being made for the passage of the 16th Amendment: "It will never be used for political gain, just for raising revenue." But grow the government too large, put those tools in the wrong hands, and this is where we end up.
One of the true ironies about the extreme level of surveillance the American people have apparently been subjected to under the NSA's PRISM program is that, for the past seven months, we have been treated to endless diatribes on what kind of guns the American people do and don't "need" to defend themselves, down to even how many rounds a red-blooded American "needs" for self-defense, hunting, and/or target shooting, coupled with the never-ending assumption that all of these, including their never-ending restrictions on the same, are somehow justified under the Second Amendment. Never has there been any mention of how much data the United States Government "needs" to collect in order to fight terrorism, or how many of the details of innocent Americans' lives "need" to be collected in order to keep those Americans safe. Not to worry, though: apparently, Constitutional amendments can be enforced or ignored on a whim, all depending on the current administration's party affiliation, and this should not be a problem.
Perhaps Becky Gerriston said it best at last week's Congressional hearing on the ongoing IRS scandal:
"I'm not here as a serf or a vassal. I'm not begging my lord for mercy. I'm a born-free American woman, wife, mother, and citizen, and I'm telling my government that you've forgotten your place."
As right as Mrs. Gerriston should have been about her standing in that hearing, it seems that we are all serfs or vassals now; we can only hope that the current Powers That Be in Congress or the White House will be sympathetic to our plight ' that somehow, some way, we will fall under the umbrella of some kind of politically correct protected class, and manage to evade the heavy hand of government interventionism, which will now not only deny us protection, but seek to deny us the ability to protect ourselves if we happen to find ourselves on the wrong side of the partisan coin during any given term of office.
With the recent revelation of the NSA's PRISM scandal, a quote from Benjamin Franklin that was very popular at the time of the Patriot Act's passage has gained popularity yet again: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." And as true as this statement of Mr. Franklin's is today, there is another statement uttered by that great man that we should look to, for we here in America today have "A republic'if [we] can keep it."
The trouble that America is in today is our own fault, for we have suborned our civic duty to the American Republic in favor of comfort and partisanship. We have raised up a political class who "serve" as our leaders, throwing lavish parties and ignoring the rule of law, while we are left to bow and scrape and beg our lords for mercy, be it to the Chief Executive Himself, or to a Congressional Committee, when we happen to fall under the heavy hand of government. If ever there were an argument for smaller government, it is this: our government has all of the tools at its disposal to destroy us, whenever and wherever it pleases, and the political class that has risen up while we were too busy watching television worships party politics above all.
Those voices warning of tyranny should never be ignored, because tyranny has never been closer to taking over the Land of the Free than it is today. Americans of all political stripes have a choice before them. We can say "too little too late," or we can work together to elect new leaders who will rein in this government and ensure that America will stand for freedom once again.
The time to stand is now, if for no other reason than that all too soon, elections will no longer be sufficient to solve our nation's problems. Look past the partisanship, and find freedom. That is a cause we all should be able to get behind.